AUBURN — In between the rain drops and muddy bases, Monday’s Western Maine Conference baseball game presented several opportunities for St. Dom’s and Sacopee Valley to score runs.

The Saints took advantage of their opportunities. The Hawks, with more than a little resistance from St. Dom’s reliever Justin Keaney and his defense, did not.

Keaney tossed three innings of scoreless relief and St. Dom’s got the timely hits in the sloppy conditions to rally to a 5-2 win.

“I’m really proud of the offense,” said St. Dom’s coach Bob Blackman, who started three freshmen and three sophomores. “We had runners on base in every inning. It’s kind of been our bugaboo all year where we just haven’t been able to put three or four on in a row. Today, we had the one inning where we put some together and you could just see the spirits go up.”

Keaney relieved starter Riley Volpe with the bases loaded and two outs and the Saints trailing, 2-0, in the top of the fourth. Sacopee’s Dana Shea belted his first pitch to deep center, but Bobby Shelley got a good jump on it and caught it to end the threat.

“He hit that ball hard,” Keaney said. “Anything up in the air, Shelley’s going to have a chance out in center. Same with Jacques (Ouellette) and Ben (Gosselin) in right and left.”

The Saints (4-2) rode the momentum of that escape to tie the game in the bottom of the frame against Sacopee starter Dylan Miner on a sacrifice fly by Gosselin and an RBI ground out by Hunter Hughes.

Two errors by the Hawks (2-5) helped the Saints take the lead in the fifth. Ouellette, the No. 9 hitter, sparked the rally by ripping Miner’s first pitch down the left-field line for a leadoff double.

“I was just looking to put the ball in play and try to get on base to help get my team going,” said Ouellette, a freshman who also had a single and was grazed in the helmet by a pitch but emerged unscathed.

“He’s been our hottest batter all year,” Blackman said. “He’s in there at number nine, so there’s no pressure on him. He’s made every play in the outfield. He was one of the six freshmen who was battling for a position (in preseason). He won it early on and he hasn’t let up yet. He didn’t want to give it up.”

Sacopee gave up what proved to be the winning run when Ouellette scored from second on Shelley’s slow roller in the wet grass to the right side. The second baseman’s throw tipped off the first baseman’s glove and far enough away to make it 3-2.

With two out, Keaney belted a fly to center similar to the one he surrendered with his first pitch of the day. Sacopee’s outfielder misplayed this one, though, which allowed Shelley to score for a 4-2 lead.

After Keaney hit one batter and walked another, Sacopee got the tying runs in scoring position with one out in the sixth. But with two strikes on leadoff hitter Cameron Cyr, Keaney, who had been throwing fastballs all day, went off-speed to get Cyr swinging for the second out.

“He threw a lot of two-seamers and we threw the first curve ball to get the leadoff guy,” Blackman said. “He hadn’t seen the curve ball since Justin got in the game. He’s got that sidearm, two-seam action, and we wanted to just throw to contact and let our defense continue to keep us in the game.”

Before he could celebrate escaping another jam, Keaney had to hustle to cover first on Brandon Burnell’s subsequent ground ball between first and second. Will Laflamme ranged to his left to glove it, then flipped to Keaney just in time to end the Hawks’ final threat.

“That was a tough play (on the ground out),” Keaney said. “That was a good play. Riley (at first base) and Will both hustled on that. Will made a good play, and made a good throw, too.” 

“We outhit them (8-6), but we didn’t come up with the timely hits,” Sacopee Valley coach Chris Burnell said. “We left the bases loaded twice. We left a runner on third four times.”

St. Dom’s added an insurance run in the sixth on Shelley’s two-out RBI single. Shelley got the first two outs in the seventh before allowing a single to Jared Jordan. Blackman lifted him for Mac Pelletier, who induced a pop out in foul territory that he caught to end it.

Save for a short break in the fourth inning and then the final six or seven outs, a steady rain fell during the game.

Volpe allowed two unearned runs on his team’s only error in the top of the first, but also got out of that predicament with the bases loaded. After that, and despite about a 15-minute delay in the middle of the second to apply drying agent around the bases and home plate, he kept the Hawks at bay until giving way to Keaney.

“The key was, we kept it close,” Blackman said. “Riley didn’t have his best stuff. He was really having a hard time getting a feel for his breaking ball. His pitch count went up in a hurry.”

Saint Dominic Academy’s Hunter Hughes dives over Sacopee Valley’s Austin Eastman during Monday’s game in Auburn. Hunter was fielding a throw from his catcher after he tagged home to force an out with bases loaded and then unsuccessfully threw to third to try for another force out.Sacopee Valley’s Cameron Cyr is tagged out by Saint Dominic Academy’s MacKenzie Pelletier while attmepting to steal second base during Monday’s baseball game in Auburn.Sacopee Valley’s Brandon Capano is tagged out diving back to first base by Saint Dominic Academy’s Riley Volpe during a run down after Capano took off to try to steal second and decided to turn back.Saint Dominic Academy’s Jacques Ouellette hauls in a line drive to the outfield to record an out during Monday’s game against Sacopee Valley in Auburn.Saint Dominic Academy’s Jacques Ouellette dives back into first base before Sacopee Valley’s Peter Cates can tag him out during a pickoff attempt during Monday’s game in Auburn.Saint Dominic Academy coach Bob Blackman makes a pitching change during Monday’s game against Sacopee Valley.


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